Greenwich has a new kid in town. The J House, a boutique hotel in Riverside, has opened eleven14 Kitchen and The Chocolate Lab. The hotel's modern and playful layers of lounges and indoor/outdoor dining areas, paired with a culinary program led by Chef François Kwaku-Dongo most notably of Spago, make it a place you’ll want to explore this summer.
A perfect marriage of modern comfort and contemporary art and design, you’d never guess 86-room J House was once a rather dilapidated Howard Johnson. Owner/operator Greenwich-based Brenwood Hospitality Group has wiped away any hint of its HoJo past and created a luxurious and sleek respite with interiors by David Ashen.
Spearheading the kitchen is Executive Chef François Kwaku-Dongo, whose culinary style is influenced by a childhood spent on his grandmother’s cocoa farm in Côte d’Ivoire and honed by years at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in West Hollywood and Chicago. At J House, Kwaku-Dongo’s menus are globally inspired and executed with local ingredients.
The Seasonal American menu skews global with wood-fired cooking taking center stage. Menu highlights, which will change frequently, include: seafood carpaccio, spicy prime beef tartare, roasted local beet and artisan burrata; roasted sockeye salmon and baby artichoke; homemade duck sausage pizza; organic farmed roasted chicken and house-made smoked lamb sausage.
For those of us who appreciate our environs as much as menus, the space is not to be missed. A series of rooms extend from the hotel’s stark white modern lobby. To the right is a The Chocolate Lab. Yes, a chocolate lab. Opening by the end of June, The Chocolate Lab will offer house-made truffles, filled chocolates, pastries, gelato, espresso and coffee drinks.
An apothecary-like display of pickled vegetables, vinegars and oils, lines the wall leading toward an open pantry display kitchen where you may likely catch a glimpse of the pastry chef and his confections in action. Just beyond is the eleven14 Kitchen bar and dining room, emanating warmth from a palette of neutral browns of a reclaimed wood floor, a brick-faced wood-burning open hearth and the ingenious cable-knit chair cozies on the backs of many dining chairs. A year-round outdoor bar and dining space spills out just beyond, with an outdoor bar and fireplace begging for summer evening revelry.
The restaurant and hotel are new and service already appears solid. Hospitality veteran and hotel General Manager John Sheedy leads the team on-site. His slight vestiges of an Irish accent belie thiry-years in the business working in luxury hotels in Ireland, Germany and the United States.
The hotel amenities are sleek without being slick, and modern touches abound such as the presence of an iPad in each room (cloying yet useful for a business stay). If you’re looking for a place for a corporate meeting or private event, there are several public spaces to accommodate those requests for groups up to and over 100 people.
As for the food and menus, only time will tell how they settle into their digs. The space and talent appear to be a perfect pairing with Kwaku-Dongo, a gregarious man who Ruth Reichl once credited with introducing artisan pasta to California Cuisine. We look forwarding to heading back soon to see how it evolves.
The JHouse and eleven14 Kitchen is now open to the public and is located at 1114 East Putnam Avenue, Greenwich, CT. For the latest menus and restaurant information, visit http://eleven14kitchen.com. Information and reservations for the hotel, visit www.jhousegreenwich.com.